Monday, September 14, 2009

Travel Journal Shortcuts

One of the best times to start a journal is during a special trip or vacation. And when teamed with photos and drawings, the same journal entries will take on added power to fortify an artist's journal or scrapbook. How do you start a travel journal, especially if you have never journaled before?

Take a shortcut. This means writing short, brief phrases that describe the people, places and things you encounter on your journey, instead of trying to tackle long sentences and hefty paragraphs. And because you're on-the-go, you may not have time for anything more than short, pithy descriptions.

Think postcard writing, but even more brief!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wow, A Windfall of Wine

A friend, Kim, who's a wine merchant, laid a windfall of bottles on me before leaving for Italy on a business trip. She's destined to tour several vineyards and wineries. My own cellar or, rather, rickety wooden rack in the basement had been reduced to few meagre bottles. I will list the wines here, lifting whatever commentary from the labels. Wineries are italicized. I will give my own review of each wine at later dates after drinking them.

In the red category, from Chateau St. Georges, is a 2003 full-bodied Claret Bordeaux from France of 60 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20 percent Cabernet Franc. Then, Four Vines 2006 Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel from California, with silky layers of berry fruit and spice. Moving on to Italy is Capestrano Rosso Piceno, a 2007 red wine of 50 percent Montepulciano and 50 percent Sangiovese, with sweet tannins and intense fruit aromas. Also from Italy, Statti 2007 Gaglioppo Calabria. Australian wines are always an interesting endeavor. Looking forward to trying Rochford Latitude's 2007 Victoria Pinot Noir, mentioning its favors of dark cherry, spice and savory oak. And finally, from New Zealand, Main Divide 2006 Pinot Noir from the Marlborough area.

Before transitioning to whites is a rose from Chile. This Calcu 2009 Rose comprises 50 percent Malbec, 40 percent Syrah and 10 percent Carmenere. It's label says floral with subtle notes of grapefruit and spice. And as a lover of champagne, I was thrilled to get a sparkling wine from Italy: Desiderio Jeio Prosecco Brut. Not sure if I'll be able to save it for New Year's.

Now on to three whites: I don't think I have ever tried a wine from Sicily, but now I can with Cusumano Insolia, a 2007 white wine. From Umbria, Italy, is an Argillae 2008 Orvieto dry white. And completing the list is a German white, Monchhof 2007 Estate Riesling Mosel. I drink white on occasion, but especially like using them in cooking chicken and pasta dishes. ◦

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Food and Flora Weekend in Galena

Behind the front-row-center Main Street scene in Galena, Illinois, lie some hidden treasures worth unveiling. Linmar Gardens high on the hill next to the clocktower high school coverted lofts is a lavish meander through thoughtful gardens, unusual sculptures and high and low waterfalls. A visit to the owner/artist Harold Martin's onsite workshop reveals his skilled penchant for the surreal. Worth the visit alone -- are the unearthed and lavishly converted ruins of African/American church, part of the original underground railway. See photo.

Next day, Ann Dougherty of Learn Great Foods took my husband and I on a three-hour city food tour which started at the The Great Galena Peddlery (which also offers cooking classes), included a mini-hike through a local sustainable blueberry farm Wooded Wonderland and back in town for an absolutely outstanding tasting menu meal at One Eleven Main, personally presented by chef Ryan Boughton.

The restaurant is committed to using locally grown foods from nearby small farms, and also butchers its own beef. The menu included a caprese salad using One Eleven Main's homemade fresh mozzarella, as well as basil and local heirloom tomatoes. Boughton then served a trout spread caviar style with toast crackers, crumbled egg yolk & whites, chopped red onion and capers. Medium rare grass-fed rib eye steak slices topped golden beet and pattypan squash wedges. Finished with a key lime tart accented with fresh blueberries from Wooded Wonderland on hazelnut crust. Meanwhile, we picked Two Brothers Prairie Path Ale beer from the restaurant's wide selection. Everything was over-the-top good.

Also had a fine lunch at Fritz & Frites bistro at the the north end of Main Street. Small and intimate with a decor that so reminded me of Galatoire's in New Orleans. Offers both French and German foods and a lush array of wines. My husband loved the salmon sandwich as did I the salmon salad with spinach, grapefruit and sliced red onion. French music in the background gave special accent to the experience.

Low point in the trip? Our B&B. The Pine Hollow Inn. Watch your head!